A Good Trade Reviews

Kirkus Starred Review

AGoodTrade“…On each spread, a few lines of spare text carry the story in a predictable pattern, a pleasure to read aloud. Page by page, verbs describe Kato’s experience as he wakes, skips, races, treks, fills, hauls, dawdles, hurries, runs, kneels, weaves, gives and dances.

Expertly crafted, Fullerton’s first picture book reminds readers of the pleasure of small things. (Picture book. 5-9)”

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The White Ravens 2013

“Kato lives in a small village in Uganda. He wakes early because his daily chores include trekking to the well outside the village and fetching the water his family will need during the day in two large jerry cans. On his way back, he spots an aid-worker’s lorry that carries wonderful gifts. Kato would love to offer the aid-worker something in return—and in the family garden, he finds just the right thing: a beautiful white poppy. In this deceptively simple and positive story of a little boy’s daily life in an African village, readers will discover subtle hints and overt references to the effects of civil war both in the quiet text and the brightly coloured digital illustrations. Thus the book will serve as a wonderful incentive to discuss this serious topic with younger and older children alike. (Ages 6+)”

To learn more about The White Ravens, visit the International Youth Library website

School Library Journal

“Gr 1-3–Kato, a young Ugandan boy, serves his family by filling jerry cans with a day’s worth of water each morning. His journey to the borehole takes him down hills, past cattle fields, and by soldiers standing guard. On this particular day, he pauses on his way back into town to peek inside an aid worker’s truck and sees that it is filled with shoes. While finishing his chores, he finds a white poppy in the field and picks it for the aid worker who gives the village children new shoes, the “good trade” of the title. The illustrations are bright and geometric, computer-generated but quite textural, appearing almost mixed media. The large images are full of subtle details that show the lifestyle and daily activities common in the small, lush village. The text is spare and poetic and the pictures capture the tone and supply the bulk of the information. Young readers will enjoy this sweet day-in-the-life snapshot.”
Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Publishers Weekly

“Patkau (One Watermelon Seed) offers simple yet soulful digital collages that gracefully supplement Fullerton’s (Libertad) understated storytelling in this book set in a Ugandan village…The double gesture of kindness—the good trade—projects a strong spirit of generosity and gratitude, traits as universal as the appeal of a gift of cool new sneakers. Ages 5–up.”

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School Library Journal “Lost Childhood”—stories about children and war

“Gr. 1–3—On his daily trek to get water, a Ugandan boy sees a treasure in an aid truck—bright new sneakers—and finds just the right thing to exchange. Colorful illustrations full of details of daily life in a war-torn country will show well when the spare text is read aloud.”

Quill & Quire

“To most North American children, being able to turn on a tap and have clean water come out is a given. The latest book from Alma Fullerton, with illustrations by Karen Patkau, should open children’s eyes to the fact that not everyone is so lucky.

A Good Trade portrays a day in the life of Kato, a young Ugandan boy who rises with the sun and travels barefoot to the water pump just outside his village to collect a day’s worth of water for his family. On this particular day, an aid worker comes to the village square with a delightful gift, and Kato is inspired to reciprocate her kindness.

Fullerton uses simple prose to relay the story of Kato’s walk to the pump and back, but she notes details—the sloshing of water in the jerry cans, the rumbling of the aid worker’s truck, the armed soldiers standing sentry in a field—that paint a complete picture. Kato’s harsh reality is illustrated through tender moments as well, such as when he splashes cold water on his dusty feet before starting the long trek home.

Patkau’s distinctive digital illustrations are a pleasant complement to Fullerton’s text, capturing the terrain of the village. The greens and browns of the landscape provide a muted backdrop to the children’s brightly coloured clothing and jerry cans. The hard lines and distinct coloration make the pictures leap off the page, as in one splendid image of children pumping water that captures the vibrancy of a girl’s dress, the texture of the children’s hair, and the leafy foliage.

There is much more to this gentle story than its obvious message about the hardships faced by others. The juxtaposition of happy children in a war-torn village, and the beautiful exchange between Kato and the aid worker, portray the endurance of childhood innocence, suggesting small joys can be found in imperfect places.”
—Katie Gowrie, Q&Q’s editorial intern

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CM Magazine

“As educators, we often tell our young students to look at the pictures when we read. The pictures reveal clues that will help us read the story and to better understand it. The images and text of A Good Trade complement one another to the point of poetic consistency. The text and the images are both complex and simple: concept easy, content load heavy. The prose is lyrical, playful and inviting to young listeners or readers with words such as “poppy” and “rut-filled hill”. Yet, there are potential story-stopping words too: “Jerry cans”, “borehole”, and “aid worker”. For every challenging word, however, there is a corresponding image, pictures simple enough to convey meaning and yet complex in colour and perspective. One image shows only the upper portion of Kato’s face as he peeks into the back of an aid worker’s truck to find many pairs of colourful shoes.

The message of A Good Trade is equally daring. Author and illustrator have created a marvelous balance of apathy and respect. When Kato presents a rare white poppy flower to the aid worker, she honours his present with her own: shoes for all his friends. One of his friends is missing a leg. An allusion to soldiers indicates that war and trouble are constants in Kato’s village in Uganda.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end. It will make an excellent discussion starter in social studies classes (as a supplement up to grade seven) and as a read-aloud  in K-2. Highly Recommended.
—David Ward

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Resource Links

“Alma Fullerton, author of the award-winning novel Libertad, has created a simple and poignant story about the power of humanitarianism, gratitude, and simple acts of kindness.

In his poverty-stricken Ugandan village, one of young Kato’s daily jobs is to make the long trek to the village well to fill his two jerry cans with water. On this day, like all others, Kato passes by other groups of barefoot children along his way, as well as soldiers guarding fields of animals. When he arrives back to the village square, he notices an aid worker’s truck, and is overjoyed when he spots what is inside. He rushes to a field he passed earlier to pick the single poppy that grows there. Kato is first in line when the aid worker begins handing out her treasures to all of the village’s children—brand new pairs of shoes— and presents her in turn with all that he has to offer her, a beautiful symbol of peace.

A Good Trade is an eloquently told, beautifully illustrated, and heartfelt story. The children in the book, and Kato in particular, appear to be filled with a deep down happiness and certain light heartedness in spite of their country’s harsh situation. It is quite evident that they do not see their lives as being ones of misfortune, wheras it is simply their reality, and they are at peace with it. As a result, this story could serve as a humble reminder to children to be grateful not only for the material things they have that are normally taken for granted, but for the privilege of living in a country where they do not have to experience this type of day to day existence.

…this story—with its simple message told through the eyes of a child who so joyously celebrates the good fortune bestowed upon his village—will have a definite place on library shelves.”
Nicole Rowlinson

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Every morning at dawn, Kato leaves his Ugandan village to begin his challenging barefoot hike to fetch water. Carrying two jerry cans, the boy traverses through grass, down hills, and past cattle in fields guarded by soldiers. When he reaches the village well, he fills the cans with a day’s supply of water. After splashing his weary, dusty feet, Kato begins his long trek home, conveying the heavy containers on his head and in his hand. An aid worker’s truck near the village square catches his attention. The child becomes so excited by what he spots inside the vehicle that he dashes home to look for something special to present to the aid worker in exchange for the life-altering gift… a single white poppy from his garden for brand new shoes!

Alma Fullerton introduces us to the life of a young boy living in a war-torn country. Readers will quickly deduce that Kato’s days are fraught with hardship and danger as well as joy. The text is brief and subtle, yet descriptive enough so that we can feel Kato’s energy as well as his weariness, hear the splash of water and the laughter of the children, and sense the menacing presence of the watchful soldiers. Witness Kato’s elation when he finds the perfect gift to give to the aid worker: “Rushing through his chores, Kato runs to the garden and stops when he spies the single white poppy. Tenderly, he kneels to pick it. Between bouncy children, Kato weaves, cradling the poppy, careful not to crush it.”

Karen Patkau’s evocative digital illustrations provide further illuminating details about Kato’s environment: the Ugandan village where he lives, the territory traversed en route to get water, the changing hues of the sky, the brilliant colours of the children’s clothing, the friend with the artificial leg, the exquisiteness of the white poppy. The artwork is a perfect match for Fullerton’s understated text. Together they provide an enriching insight into one boy’s life in a distant country, and the preciousness of peace and goodwill.”
Senta Ross is a former elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in Kitchener, Ontario.

For a subscription to Canadian Children’s Book News, visit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Best Books for Kids & Teens Spring 2013

“In this eloquently told and distinctively illustrated book, Kato, a young boy, trudges barefoot past fields and soldiers on the long, hot road to his Ugandan village well. When an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all the village children, Kato finds something to give in return: one small piece of beauty in a war-torn land.”

The International Educator

“This is the story of Kato, a young boy growing up in a Ugandan village. His daily routine includes chores and a long walk at dawn to the water hole.
One day, the routine is disrupted: an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all
the village children, and Kato feels compelled to give her something precious is return. A good story to use when discussing life in rural Africa.”
—Margriet Ruurs

For more information about The International Educator, visit the TIE Online website

CBC Toronto Recommendations For Children’s Books

“If you’re a parent and you’ve been to a bookstore lately, you might have noticed a growing trend in issue oriented books for children. These are books that address topics such as global warming, poverty, and food sustainability. Mary Ito looked at what’s behind this trend with Dory Cerny, Books for Young People Editor at Quill and Quire.

A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Karen Patkau (Pajama Press, ages 5+). – In this book, a young Ugandan boy embarks, barefoot, on a lengthy journey to get water from the pump located outside of his village. When he receives an unexpected gift from an aid worker who has come to the village square, he devises a meaningful way to say thank you. The message here is clear, but delivered with a soft touch, reminding young readers that not everyone is as fortunate as they are…”
—Mary Ito with Dory Cerny for Here and Now Toronto

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49th Shelf Notes from a Children’s Librarian

“Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau’s A Good Trade starts out simple. Kato, a young boy wakes on his mat in Uganda. He carries his gerry cans to the well for water, splashing his bare feet. Questions start to form in the reader’s mind. Why are the cattle-spotted fields guarded by soldiers? What is this “aid worker’s truck” Kato peeks into? He spies a single white poppy and makes a trade for what he’s seen: a pair of runners. The beautiful pictures and the one-sentence-per-page provide great starting points for discussing life in Uganda, world help organizations, and inequity in general.”

Click here to see the rest of the Books with Sole(s) list

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Kato’s story could be a sombre one, considering that for his whole life Uganda has been in the midst of a civil war in which children were abducted and terrorized to fight for the rebel forces. But, while not ignoring the presence of armed soldiers, A Good Trade accepts the unrest and horror as only one aspect of Uganda.  There are also the gardens, hills, trails, fields with cattle, and villages with neighbours and children.  And those who offer help.

…I believe that the pairing of Alma Fullerton’s text with Karen Patkau’s art style in A Good Trade is inspired.  It’s almost as if Karen Patkau’s art was destined to evoke the landscape and story of Uganda.  Her sultry skies alone capably recreate the shimmering heat of an African day.

Whatever forces, human or supernatural, that brought together these two artists, one of words and the other of graphics, knew exactly what they were doing.  There’s gratitude all around here: from Kato, from picture book lovers, from compassionate readers.”
—Helen K

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Spirituality & Practice

“…Alma Fullerton has written this simple but eloquent account of how giving is a boon to both the giver and the recipient. A wise Chinese proverb says: ‘A lot of fragrance always clings to the hand of one that gives roses.’ That is certainly true of Kato. Hats off to Fullerton and illustrator Karen Patkau for this touching African tale about generosity and kindness!”
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

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The Library of Clean Reads

“A simple but powerful story on the value of a gift. I read this book with my son and we had a wonderful discussion on the lives of other children in distant lands and the value we place on material objects. I could see it made him reflect deeply.

…With few words and illustrations that use earth tone colors with splashes of bright, patterned ones, this book conveys a heartwarming story about a boy who, despite living in a country ravaged by a generation of civil war and drought, can find joy in the gift of shoes and likewise show gratitude. This story opened up many questions for my eight-year old son. Where does the aid-worker get the things to give to the village? Can we also send shoes to children in Africa who are barefoot?”
Laura Fabiani

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Pickle Me This

“…In gorgeous illustrations by Karen Patkau, readers follow Kato, a small boy on his morning route to get water for his family in his small village in Uganda. We notice the vivid colours of his clothing and his friends’, the community spirit, and in the background are soldiers on guard, the fact that the children are shoeless. When an aid truck rolls into the village, Kato is intrigued by what’s inside, and imagines what he might give the aid worker in exchange.”
—Kerry Clare

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

The author uses clear prose and descriptive language to make the reader aware of the life that Kato lives. We hear the silence of the early morning, see the soldiers as they stand guard, feel the sloshing of the water on Kato’s bare, dusty toes, catch our breath with him as he hauls the water home and must stop to rest, and smile as he and the aid worker make their ‘good trade’.

Karen Patkau creates a setting that allows a glimpse at Kato’s life and his village, the bright and happy colors that the children wear (including their new shoes) and the muted landscape he travels over daily. Each page captures our attention and begs for discussion.

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That’s Another Story

“This book is a good example of how spare language and imagery can highlight social issues in a way that young children can understand. I’d read this book again to study how the author uses words to create compelling images. The illustrations evoke a strong sense of atmosphere, as well as providing more to think about in showing details of Kato’s life in Africa.”

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Picture Book Palooza

“…a simple and poignant story. Told in a clear, clean prose, the story is about Kato who goes to fetch water and do chores, but also finds something special to give the aid worker that gives out new shoes.

The art is digital. It has a mixed media collage look to it…There are several terrific perspective spreads…I would use this with preschoolers to second graders, because of the simple storyline, but older children could be introduced to a study on Uganda with this title.”

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Musings of a YA Reader

“…Overall, I liked A Good Trade, and believe that it can be used to launch a discussion about gratitude and what it’s like to live in a third world country.”

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